Bio-identical hormones are in the news again. Oprah featured Christian Northrup on her show January 15, 2009. In addition, Oprah announced that Suzanne Summers will be on her show in the near future. Several readers have asked me to weigh in with my thoughts on the use and safety of bio-identical hormones. Many radio and TV doctors continue to claim that bio-identical hormones and non-bioidentical hormones are the same. This is simply not true. Adding to the confusion, some recommend high doses of bio-identical hormones claiming that high doses are both safe and a desirable tool for anti-aging.
Bio-identical hormones match the exact molecule that is made in our body. Studies have shown that women do much better with bio-identical hormones. Estrogens, progesterone and testosterone can be produced in a lab to match human hormones. Non-bioidentical hormones including Provera and the hormones in birth control pills do not match our natural hormones. While both exhibit some similar actions, many of the effects can be as different as night and day. Evidence is mounting that non-bioidentical hormones lead to other health concerns including heart disease.
Extreme premenstrual or peri-menopausal symptoms are not normal. Excessive hot flashes, depression, moods swings, insomnia and bone loss are a few of the more common symptoms of hormone imbalance. There are many ways to balance hormones and sometimes simply changing the diet or adding supplements and/or herbs will balance hormones naturally. On the other hand, if they do not work you must consider if the ongoing symptoms of hormonal imbalance is more unhealthy than supplementing with bio-identical hormones. Quality of life is a very real health concern. When bio-identical hormones are used wisely and with the right patients it can literally be life changing in a matter of days to weeks.
Bio-identical hormone therapy is an option that ought to be considered for some women. Your health care provider should be well versed in natural hormone balancing. Lab tests and a full and complete history that includes a detailed symptom assessment should be included in your evaluation to determine your individual needs. There is not a one-size-fits-all option. Most importantly, your health care provider must be fully present while listening and with you. Your health care provider can and should partner with you around your health care.